TODAY -

2020 as the 'Year of Science'

Dr Harsh Vardhan *



Mankind will be able to recall only one event from 2020 and that shall be the story of the deadly and unknown virus that wreaked havoc across the globe, killing a million and a half people and causing unprecedented economic devastation. History will also recall how science raced to the rescue of humans and how research and development with global collaboration became the focus.

The year 2020 has been the 'Year of Science' when the best of humanity has shone through the gloom that descended upon us due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a matter of record that as the spread of the disease accelerated, so did the research efforts to mitigate this.

Major global collaborations were set up so that scientists could share their expertise, and plans were implemented to speed up clinical trials so that treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics could take place quickly, without compromising on the safety angle.

For all this work, Governments, businesses, and philanthropic organizations got together and started committing resources. This is why I say that it is not just the science that has been remarkable this year, but the international collaboration too.

In fact, the dedication of scientists across the globe has been laudable, not just for producing a string of life-saving breakthroughs but for doing so at an unprecedented pace. I take this opportunity to applaud each organization that has supported the research response to COVID-19 and made us proud.

The biggest success of this pandemic has been the team work and science community putting the right outcome ahead of individual rewards. Scientists and organizations actually focused on delivering a meaningful goal, whether it was across a Nation, across a continent or across the world. During the pandemic, scientists have exhibited that we can meet any pace, retain the quality of our diagnostics and care, build confidence and trust that speed doesn't mean lack of quality.

I have personally always believed that the fruits of our collaboration on science and healthcare need equitable distribution. We must deliver those to everybody in the world, and create a more equal world. As Chairman of the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation, I've been talking about this to countries, funding agencies, scientists and philanthropists. There is commitment from everyone and I consider that among the most important outcomes of 2020.

In the perspective of the pandemic, it stands once again reinforced that the science community has made consistent and indefatigable efforts in addressing societal problems. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a great deal of the developmental work that has been achieved by our Government in the last six and a half years bears the hallmark of efforts made by our scientists, technology experts and innovators. The effort to organise the India International Science Festival (IISF) since 2015 has been in fact to celebrate exactly this fact.

The aim of the IISF has been to engage the public with science and showcase how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) provide us with solutions to improve the quality of our lives. The Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Earth Sciences in association with Vijnana Bharati (VIBHA), has created this unique platform called IISF which intends to inspire curiosity and make science learning more rewarding.

The Festival aims to particularly reach out to the student community so as to ignite their scientific spirit. What started as a small event, has now matured into a much-awaited annual scientific gathering involving students, scientists, academia, media, and the general public.

IISF is a, platform open for people from all sections of society and coming from diverse background to experience and enjoy science activities, achievements and innovations in all spheres of life.

I am delighted to see that every edition of IISF has grown bigger and better and has been attracting people in large numbers. The program has emerged as an eagerly awaited celebration of science. Scientific events at the IISF have broken global records and have entered the pages of the prestigious Guinness Book of World Records.

IISF is being celebrated virtually this year, from December 22nd-25th. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), through its National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (CSIR-NISTADS) is organizing this mega virtual event.

The theme of IISF2020 is "Science for Self-Reliant India and Global Welfare", which is based on the clarion call given by Hon'ble Prime Minister for building a self-reliant India that can contribute to global good.

This four-day science festival aims towards strengthening and expanding the soft power of our Nation globally. As many as 41 different events covering STEM disciplines have also been included in the IISF 2020 to attract young and innovative minds.

If 2020 has been the year Of discovery for COVID-19 Vaccines, 2021 will be the year we face the challenge of getting it across to people across the world who most need it. This IISF2020, let's take the pledge to redouble our commitments to put an end to the current pandemic and to further enhance cooperation that makes life-saving science possible.

With all its devastation, 2020 has been a great scientific success story. For me, the recognition of scientists as first responders to grave humanitarian threats is really important. At the same time, ensuring all low-and middle-income countries have access to safe and effective COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines is the outstanding challenge.

To the scientists who gave everything to vaccines, tests and treatments this year, a big shout out and a bigger thank you!


* Dr Harsh Vardhan wrote this article which was published at The Sangai Express
The writer is the Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Health, & Family Welfare
This article was webcasted on December 29 2020.



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